A woman complained about her excessive hair fall and was reassured by her grandmother, "Don't stress, it'll stop after Ganesh Chaturthi." Now, that's a lot of faith in the god of new beginnings, considering he doesn't have a strand of hair on his celestial elephant head. But in hindsight, what she really meant was that seasonal hair fall reduces as the monsoons near its end in India, when Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated, between August and September.
Celebrated in the most ostentatious manner, this festival was initially a private, household affair. It was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the 'Father of Indian Unrest', as the British called him, who turned it into a ten day public event in 1893. His goal was to bridge the gap between Brahmin and non-Brahmin communities, and create a space for all Indians to come together during a time when public political and social gathering were banned by the British. While some historians trace Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations back to the Satavahana, Rashtrakuta and Chalukya dynasties from 271 BC to 1190 AD, other historical records suggest that the festival was initiated by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, to promote culture and nationalism. It continued during the Peshwa's rule whose family deity was Ganesh. Explains why the song 'Gajanana' appeared in the film, Bajirao Mastani, not that a justification is needed.
This week’s newsletter is dedicated to depictions of Ganesha in pop culture, not just in India but around the world.
Things we learnt this week 🤓
In the opening credits of Season One of the show 'American Gods', based on Neil Gaiman's novel, Ganesh's image appears to be holding a smartphone in each hand, atop a pedestal of syringes.
A statue of Ganesh appeared for a few seconds in the music video for 'How you like that' by Blackpink, an all-female K-pop band. He was shown on the floor, near a bejeweled Aladdin lamp, as a member of the band rapped on a golden throne. It was later removed from the video after the band received backlash for cultural appropriation and hurting religious sentiments.
The cover for the second studio album Axis: Bold as Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released on December 1, 1967 was inspired by Hindu religious iconography that featured Ganesh as well. It generated substantial controversy and was apparently designed without Hendrix's approval, for which he publicly expressed dissatisfaction.
The fifth season of the TV show ‘Supernatural’ had an episode titled, 'Hammer of the Gods' which featured Hindu Gods. Ganesh disguises himself as a middle aged African man and is depicted as a shapeshifting, invulnerable, omnilingual, immortal whose only weakness are Archangels. This was unsurprisingly controversial.
From Hell is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell set during the late Victorian era. The novel speculates upon the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper. The book theorizes that Sir William Gull, royal physician could have been the culprit behind the murders. In the book, before Gull commits the murders he meets the Elephant Man and compares him to Ganesha. Since Ganesha is worshipped before the start of an endeavor, Gull seeks out the Elephant Man before starting out the murders.
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Keeping with the spirit of Ganesh Chaturthi, here is a screengrab from the iconic Kannada film Ganeshana Maduve. The dialogue goes “Don’t worry mother. I am like Gavaskar, will bat right-handed or left-handed.”
What is this scene a reference to? (Give us some names in the answer).
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